Or, “How Bill and Ted’s Self-Indulgent Adventure Became William and Theodore’s Moving Memoir.”

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BABYLON BY BUS

OR, THE TRUE STORY OF TWO FRIENDS WHO GAVE UP THEIR VALUABLE FRANCHISE SELLING YANKEES SUCK T-SHIRTS AT FENWAY TO FIND MEANING AND ADVENTURE IN IRAQ, WHERE THEY BECAME EMPLOYED BY THE OCCUPATION IN JOBS FOR WHICH THEY LACKED QUALIFICATION AND WITNESSED MU

“Or,” as the subtitle puts it, “the True Story of Two Friends Who Gave Up Their Valuable Franchise Selling YANKEES SUCK T-Shirts at Fenway to Find Meaning and Adventure in Iraq, Where They Became Employed by the Occupation in Jobs for Which They Lacked Qualification and Witnessed Much That Amazed and Disturbed Them.”

Two feckless BoSox fanatics and first-time authors travel to Baghdad, where they manage to find some feck and do some good. They don’t begin as characters many readers will like. (For simplicity’s sake, LeMoine narrates their memoir.) When they decided to go to Iraq in October 2003, prompted by a heartbreaking-for-Boston World Series, they were young and dumb, full of early-20s certainty that they would never die and that just about everyone else was an idiot. But amid ruin and chaos in one of the most dangerous places on earth, they discovered that they liked to help the helpless, they realized their frailty, they . . . well, matured (sort of). The authors are certainly unafraid to admit their weaknesses, characterizing their 2003 selves as stupid, ignorant and gullible. What they did was indeed jaw-dropping in its chutzpah. In Jordan, they boarded a creaking bus to Baghdad, where they weaseled their way into working for the Coalition Provisional Authority. Soon, they were operating a charity they named HAND (Humanitarian Aid Network of Distribution) by day and downing drugs—alcohol and valium were their preferred downers—by night. Each day they drove out of the Green Zone (the high-security safety area) into what they called the Red Zone, where they distributed boxes of used clothing to swarms of children. They figured out how to circumvent or manipulate the military presence, how to communicate with Iraqis, where to find the best tobacco and the most drunken parties. When the U.S. shut down some opposition media, sectarian violence began to intensify, especially after the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted. In Jordan, the authors got in some scuffles, and the U.S. military cut them loose. Back home, they heard about the violent deaths of two friends in Baghdad. Some of the war-zone madness is reminiscent of Catch-22; some of the sorrow and tragedy is too.

Or, “How Bill and Ted’s Self-Indulgent Adventure Became William and Theodore’s Moving Memoir.”

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2006

ISBN: 1-59420-091-2

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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